Japan Quake Tsunami Radiation China Salt Panic
Japan radiation fears spark panic salt buying in China
A clamor for iodine salt leads to long lines and mob scenes at stores across China after rumors spread of a radioactive cloud from Japan’s quake-damaged nuclear plant. The hordes are under the false impression that consuming the seasoning would protect against radiation poisoning.
By David Pierson
The clamor for salt reportedly started after rumors spread, possibly by cellphone text-messaging, that China would be hit by a radioactive cloud from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which had been badly damaged during last week’s earthquake and tsunami.
People were under the false impression that consuming enough iodine salt would protect against radiation and that China’s sea salt supplies would be contaminated as a result of the unfolding Japanese crisis.
That sparked long lines and mob scenes in some of China’s largest cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing and Hangzhou.
In a scene repeated across the country, online video from the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou showed panicked shoppers filling their baskets with tubs of salt and street vendors complaining about being cleaned out of the seasoning. “I hear there was also a huge earthquake in Taiwan and it will hurt salt supply,” a woman is heard saying. There was no earthquake in Taiwan.
Chinese authorities have tried to quash the rumors, explaining that the country has massive reserves and that 80% of its salt sources were on land.
Thousands of television screens affixed on Beijing’s subway cars displayed a public service announcement Thursday that said: “The local salt bureau has stated that there’s enough supply of salt. Salt is a special product that is controlled by the government. Supply is greater than demand.”
Meanwhile, China’s National Development and Reform Commission told price-control authorities to crack down on hoarding.
The Chinese National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center also tried to allay fears that radioactive particles were heading for China, explaining that currents in the Pacific Ocean next to Fukushima were flowing east.
“It is impossible for radioactive substances to reach China’s sea areas via the ocean current,” the forecasting center said, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Salt producers benefited from the pandemonium. Shares of Yunnan Salt & Chemical Industry Co. rose by the daily limit of 10%.
In another sign panic over Japan’s nuclear crisis is spreading across borders, authorities in the Philippines had to hold a news conference Thursday to silence rumors spread on mobile phones that the country would be hit by radioactive fallout.